Culture and identity
Indonesia’s people are extremely diverse in culture, language, ethnicity and religion. Around 300 distinct language and ethnic groups populate the archipelago. Many communities belong to the Malay family, but in Papua and the nearby islands most people are Melanesian. There are also a number of descendants from immigrants, including Chinese, Arabs, Indians and Europeans.
The Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple compounds are recognised World Heritage cultural sites, as is the Sangrian Early Man Site, where the discovery of 50 hominid fossils made this an important site for understanding human evolution.
General health and life expectancy have improved for most Indonesians during the past few decades. The average life expectancy is 68 years, 70 for women and 67 for men. Improvements in nutrition and the availability of clean water have contributed to this. Indonesia has successfully developed a system of community health centres in towns and villages, allowing very widespread access to primary healthcare. Communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria are a major cause of death. The rate of HIV/AIDs is extremely low at 0.2% in 2007; however, this figure is creeping up.
Religion and beliefs
The majority of Indonesians are Sunni Muslims. There is a Christian minority in most provinces, and in a few regions such as East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra and North Sulawesi, Christians are the majority. In Bali over 85% of people are Hindus and there is a small Hindu minority in both Central and East Java. About 1.7 million Indonesians, mostly people of Chinese descent, are Buddhists. Apart from the world religions, traditional animist beliefs and practices remain important in many areas. Most Indonesians are very tolerant of different religions, and many people actually observe celebrations from more than one religious tradition.
Food and shelter
About 46% of Indonesians inhabit rural villages where they live by farming rice, corn and other crops as well as fishing, aquaculture and raising ducks and chickens. Plantation crops include sugar, coffee, tea, coconuts and spices. Indonesian food is very varied and every region has its specialties. Most meals are rice-based, with side dishes made mostly from vegetables and small amounts of fish, chicken, eggs or meat. Noodles and bean curd are also popular foods. As most Indonesians are Muslims, they do not eat pork. In eastern Indonesia, cassava is an important food.
Village houses are usually simple one- or two-room bamboo and wooden buildings. For those living in Indonesia’s fast-growing cities, housing styles vary widely, from new suburban housing developments and modern high-rise apartments to crowded kampung (urban villages) and makeshift shanty settlements.